Funny You Should Ask
by David Parks, Ph.D.
Editor, Blossoming Rose Journal
360 Pine St, Cedar Spring MI 49319

A Jewish businessman in Chicago sent his son to Israel for a year to absorb the culture. When the son returned, he said, "Papa, I had a great time in Israel. By the way, I converted to Christianity."

"Oy vey," said the father, "What have I done?" He took his problem to his best friend. "Ike," he said, "I sent my son to Israel, and he came home a Christian. What can I do?"

"Funny you should ask," said Ike. "I, too, sent my son to Israel, and he also came home a Christian. Perhaps we should go see the rabbi." They explained their problem to the rabbi.

"Funny you should ask," said the rabbi. "I, too, sent my son to Israel, and he also came home a Christian. What is happening to our young people?"

They prayed, telling the Lord about their sons. As they finished their prayer, a voice came from the heavens:

"Funny you should ask," said the voice. "I, too, sent my son to Israel ....."

Twenty years ago, this familiar story with its unexpected twist gave me a few belly laughs, and I passed it on to friends. When it showed up the other day on its email rounds, I deleted it with a grunt. But the next day I asked for it back. Why did this joke make me laugh? Would it make a Jew laugh just as freely? Perhaps the thing which fascinates me most about this joke is its arrogance. Three fathers speak. Three sons convert. No exceptions. Not even in the rabbi's family.

I tried to imagine God completing the punch line.

"I, too, sent my son to Israel ...."

Are we trying to say that Jesus rebelled against God? That Jesus converted to Christianity? That the natural progression is from Judaism to Christianity? Maybe we should compare this story to the real thing.

Jesus never converted. He was born Jewish and stayed that way.

On his mother's side, he counted fourteen generations from Father Abraham to King David, fourteen generations from King David to the Jews' exile in Babylon, and fourteen generations from the exile to the Messiah. On his father's side the list was just as long, just as true. They circumcised him on the eighth day, as God specified to Abraham. They took him to the annual Passover in Jerusalem, where he wowed the Jewish teachers with his knowledge of Torah.

But did he change his mind as he grew more mature? Let's see. As an adult, Jesus knew the Jewish Bible well enough to quote it during arguments. At least seventy percent of his teachings parallel First Century rabbinical literature. Jesus went to synagogue every week, kept the Jewish Sabbath, and observed all the Jewish holidays. Instead of decorating a Christmas tree, Jesus lit Hanukka candles. Jesus sided with his fellow Pharisees when a powerful sect mocked their belief in the resurrection of the body. At other times, Jesus scolded the Pharisees for their hypocrisy.

Like any itinerant Jewish preacher of the time, Jesus clustered people around him, not in synagogues, but in fields and on hillsides among the farms. All his early followers were Jews, including the fishermen, Peter, James, and John. Some of his chief followers were Jewish leaders. When pagans asked his help, he refused, saying he had come to find the "lost sheep of Israel." The sign over his stake of execution read "KING OF THE JEWS" in three languages -- Greek, Latin, and Hebrew.

"A Jewish businessman in Chicago..."

It's still a good joke. And it's still built on faulty ideas.

"Funny you should ask," says the real story. "I, too, sent my son to Israel, and he came home a Jew."